Grace for the Unwelcome Monster Within

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If you’ve ever heard me share my story, my story of salvation and sanctification, you’ve heard me retell how I came to Christ because of my Judy. Judy was a constant witness to the faithfulness and love of the Father. Her singing and joy and laughter and steadfastness radiated the gospel. But it was one day that I was scared and felt so alone, my world in pieces, that I sat upon Judy’s lap in her velevety, oversized recliner, and she shared with me that God would never leave me nor forsake me. I knew that day I wanted the relationship with my Creator that Judy had. So I paced her hallway, one bedroom end to the other, saying, “Jesus, come into my heart!” as many times as I could repeat it before dinner. I didn’t have it all figured out. But I knew I wanted Him.

I’ve always been an over-achiever–a perfectionist. I want to do everything to the best of my ability. If I know I will likely fail, I’ll never attempt it. I wanted people to be happy with me. So I rarely showed negative emotions as a child. If someone hurt my feelings, I would do my best to get over it or cope. I could make you an impressive list, and check off each one. I knew what being a “good Christian” looked like, and I could surpass that all. I wanted to be close to Him, do what He said, a leader and example for believers.

hard-labour-285215_640But then, the Colette I had known all along began to experience things she couldn’t suppress. My emotions seemed to rare up without warning. Anger that I couldn’t hide or reason away. I was dealing with this internal monster that seemed to take away my entire foundation of the person I thought was me. Such a heavy load to bear.

And then, there came grace.

It was June of 2006. I was sitting on a small park bench outside my apartment at UMHB. Most students had gone home for the summer by this point. I stayed behind to finish up some credit hours and work as a tour guide for incoming freshman and their parents. The sun was shining gently through the trees, and it was so still and quiet all around me. I had recently begun Beth Moore’s study on the tabernacle–completely floored by the lessons I was learning about God dwelling among His people. That day, the study led me to Genesis 15. God had previously called Abram to leave his home, his kindred, his land, and go. Go to the place that God would show him. And he did. He packed up and set out. And then came the questions from Abram. How would God make him into a great nation when he was old, and had no children to call his own? How would he know that he would possess the land God promised him? So God told him his descendants would number the stars. And Abram believed. And then God went on to seal His covenant with Abram. And here is where my life would forever change.

I read through the happenings of this sealing. How Abram gathered the appropriate animals, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. How a deep sleep and dreadful darkness fell upon him. And how the Lord finalized the covenant while Abram was fast asleep. Zero participation on Abram’s behalf at this point.

“You see, this was God’s covenant. Its ultimate end was unconditional. The faithfulness of God’s promise had nothing to do with Abram and everything to do with God.”

I still have this Bible study workbook. You can literally see how God began to implant these rich, deep truths in the ways He shook my foundations of belief.

I wrote in the margins, “What if Abraham wouldn’t have obeyed God’s voice–would the Lord have still kept His covenant?”

I remember calling Nathan in tears. Why? Why did it not depend on Abram? How? How could it not? Doesn’t my salvation depend on me? Doesn’t my eternity hang upon my checklist?

And my incredibly wise, not-yet-husband-at-the-time, preached to me the gospel. He proclaimed grace to my works-based heart. God chose Abram for the task. Not because of  anything he had done or would do. Abram wasn’t even awake to participate in sealing the covenant. The guy thereafter messed up repeatedly. But he did believe on God’s faithfulness. And it was credited to him as righteousness. God called me out, not because of who I was or what I could do for Him, but because of who He was and the love He had for me. Sin-stained and all.

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Grace. It finally made sense. And my anger-laden, weary soul cried out to God in praise. That it didn’t depend on me. It was His grace.

Are you tired of constantly suppressing the ugly self that keeps rising to the top? Are you struggling under the weight of all you’re “supposed” to be doing? Believe on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Trust that He has died for you and instead of you. Receive the gift of grace. Be set free.

If Judy was still here with us on earth, I’d take my whole adult-self and crawl into her lap again. I’d tell her how thankful I was for her faithful testimony to the love of God. I’d tell her how I didn’t get it all that day in the fluffy recliner, but more and more, I’m growing to understand what a great and gracious God He is. I know she’d want that for you, too.

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Ah, Friendship: simply my two cents

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I have some incredible friends in my circle. They teach me each day what caring for another looks like. They invite my gang and me into their homes, they pray for me and let me pray for them, they take my kids when I need to be away and entrust theirs to me, they check on me and share with me their struggles and hilarious anecdotes of the day. They brag on their husbands and siblings and parents. They study God’s word with me and encourage me to strive toward righteousness.

I have other friends whom I rarely see, but the bond remains the same. We have changed, our circumstances have changed, our schedules and rhythms have totally changed, but we all seem to be okay with that.

And, being a pastor’s wife, I have the privilege of looking in on a variety of friendships throughout the church–friendships that look totally different from my own. I have loved the opportunity to walk with women through the difficulties and joys that are just part of the whole package of this friendship thing.

Below are a handful of beliefs I’ve gathered along the way.

  1. Yes, we should find friends who love us and all our quirks, but we need friends who ultimately help us look more and more like our Savior. As Jesus followers, we should welcome friendships with those who want to sharpen us and be sharpened. Women who want to help us grow toward holiness and Christ-likeness. We should seek out someone who will build us up, encourage our specific giftedness and speak truth to us in love. Someone who will pray with and for us and come alongside us in life and ministry.
  2. Seek out friends who will help you run toward repentance rather than commiserate over sin.
  3. Invite wisdom and insight. Be teachable. people-2559723_640
  4. Friendship is hard–hard to come by and often hard to maintain. As we change, our friendships will morph as well. And that’s okay! What made the friendship thrive for so long will eventually alter or die. Anticipate that.
  5. Give one another the freedom to move on or to change dynamic from the get-go. It’s okay to take a step back or to walk away from a friendship. Obviously, it may hurt deeply. When pain and resentment run deep, run to the Father. Cry out to Him. He is a God who sees, knows and cares.
  6. Not every friendship is going to turn into something deeper. And, again, that’s okay.
  7. If you’ve been hurt or offended, pray. Ask God to show you if it’s worth holding on to. If not, let it go. If it’s still sticking to you, go to them. Don’t let bitterness take root or share the offenses with others. Speak to your friend.
  8. Celebrate the blessing of friendship now if you have it. Enjoy your friend(s)! Bless them. Serve them. Care for them well. Soak up the gift of who they are and the bond you share.
  9. Be the friend you’re desiring to find. And when you tire of consistently pursuing with no one returning the pursuit, ask God to fill the aching areas with His all-sufficient companionship. He is our faithful friend.
  10. It’s worth it to pursue friendship outside of your spouse (with other women). Yes, your husband should be your best and closest friend. But women share our unique design and understand the depths of our intricate framework. Find joy in the accountability and encouragement of another female. It doesn’t have to be super emotional and sappy and dramatic.
  11. If you make plans to meet a friend, do everything within your power to be there. Our culture has an increasing problem with keeping commitments. Show love by showing up.
  12. It’s okay (and very helpful) to begin a potential friendship with, “What are you hoping to find in a friend at this point in your life?” or “What does friendship look like to you?”
  13. Be up front about what this stage of life looks like for you–with yourself and others. You may be in a season where time with dear friends is spent in prayer through text or sporadic conversations interrupted by diaper changes and hair pulling and spilled juice. Conversations that never seem to have a beginning or an end. And that time needs to be enough and okay. We have got to lower our expectations of others and celebrate the time we do have.

I’d love to hear your stories of friendships lost and gained. How have you been blessed by friends in your life?

I’m praying for each of you reading this now. That God might remind you of His faithful companionship and grow you into being a faithful friend to others–one that shines His forgiveness, joy, patience, honesty and love.


This concludes the series on friendship. If you missed the previous two posts, you can find them here and here. Thanks for joining me, friends. Soli Deo gloria.

Ah, Friendship: A brief look at some great and some not so great examples in Scripture

 

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I should preface this series by letting you know I don’t have everything figured out. I’m a woman, saved by grace, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, who is still seeking daily to choose righteousness. I’ve had my fair share of messing up friendships. Sometimes, I’ve been quick to see my mistakes and quick to seek forgiveness. Other times, it has taken me years to realize fault and strive toward reconciliation. My personality might not be the same as yours. What has worked for me may not work for you. So if you’re coming here looking for answers, I’ll tell you what my dear friend and mentor consistently tells me: “I may not have any answers, but we can pray together, and we can seek God’s word.”

I should also add that many of the truths I’ll write out are intended for women who are Christ-followers. You see, we’re called to be different. We have been set free to love and forgive and reconcile because of what Christ has done for us. Because the Holy Spirit is living within. Friendships built upon the good news should model the faithfulness, love, care, servanthood and honesty of our Father God. Please don’t use anything I mention as a check list. These are simply thoughts I’ve drawn from experience and examples in God’s word. Live out of grace, dear one.


So with that groundwork laid, let’s dive into Scripture to see what we can glean from some friendships there. Lord, open our eyes to the truth of your word. Convict us where we need to be convicted, and encourage us where we’re following your ways.

David and Jonathan (I Samuel 18-20)

This is the first biblical friendship that comes to my mind. I think largely because such strong language is used to describe Jonathan’s affection for David: “He loved him as much as he loved himself.”

Jonathan had every reason to be jealous of David. He was a valiant warrior and had won his own father’s deepest affection at the beginning. But as Saul grew in jealousy and in desire to have David eliminated from the picture, the friendship between Jonathan and David actually deepened.

Here are some aspects of their relationship we can learn from the text:

  1. Jonathan loved David and covenanted himself to him.
  2. Jonathan warned David of Saul’s plans and stood up for David.
  3. Jonathan served David.
  4. Both Jonathan and David were honest with one another, even in an intense situation and time of misunderstanding.
  5. Jonathan showed David the faithful love of the LORD.
  6. David listened to Jonathan and trusted him.
  7. Jonathan and David respected one another.
  8. Jonathan and David honored the LORD together.

Consider: Have you found yourself jealous of other friendships or perhaps upset about the success of a friend? Are you pursuing honesty with others, no matter what the cost? Are you actively pursuing ways to honor God together?

 

Job and His Three Friends (Job 2:11-37:24)

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar hear of the intense suffering that has come upon Job. They go to him that they might sympathize with him and comfort him. They see him, can barely recognize him, and mourn loudly on his behalf. Then they sit with him and eventually offer up their two cents of “why”.

Here are some aspects of their relationship we can learn from the text:

  1. Job’s friends cared enough about him to go to him.
  2. They sat with him in silence for days because of the magnitude of suffering.
  3. Each friend takes an opportunity to help Job reason why the Lord has brought such pain. They conclude with the belief that Job must have sinned greatly, even while Job replied that he is without fault. They say he should repent.
  4. Job calls his friends “miserable comforters”.

Consider: Are you avoiding a friend in pain? Have you chosen to counsel a suffering friend before really listening to them and praying for wisdom? Are you daily seeking to grow in the knowledge of Christ so you can shine Him to your friends and speak according to truth?

 

Jesus and John (Passages throughout the gospels, mostly John and Mark)

As author of his namesake book, John referred to himself frequently as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. John shared a special intimacy and connection with Christ. He was with him at the transfiguration, beside him at the last supper, and at Gethsemane before Jesus would go to the cross. Jesus entrusted John with the care of his mother, Mary, just before his death.

Here are some aspects of their relationship we can learn from the text:

  1. We can see in the title John gives to himself that he knows he is cared for by Jesus, and cared for in a different way from the other disciples. While they shared a special bond, this didn’t exclude others from being welcomed in.
  2. John willingly took on the responsibility of caring for Jesus’ earthly family.
  3. John continues to grow in knowing and understanding just who Jesus is.
  4. John recognizes Jesus upon His return.
  5. John was a disciple of Jesus in addition to his friend–he learned from him, spent time with him, cared about him, received reproof from him and cared for his blood family.
  6. At times, John wanted more than the status he held with Jesus. With this, Jesus reminded him of the importance of being a servant.
  7. After Jesus went to be with the Father, John continued to live out Christ’s mission on earth, working alongside the other disciples and apostles until his banishment to Patmos.

Consider: Do your friends know you care about them?  Are you seeking to be served rather than serve? Are you welcoming others into your friendship? Are you content with the amount of attention and time your friend has to offer you?


Go to these passages and read them for yourself. Let His word wash over you as you seek to honor Him through your relationships with other women. Come back here soon for some of my personal thoughts on building friendships that glorify God.

 

 

Ah, Friendship.

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Have you ever seen a schichttorte in the making? Yep, good luck sounding that one out. It’s this intricate 20-layer yellow German cake with apricot jam and chocolate and vanilla glaze. I sat quite nervously, chewing on my lip skin (oh, come on, you know you do it, too). I was fascinated as each baker on the Great British Baking Show mixed the ingredients together, measured, spread, watched and waited as they piled layer upon layer of this tedious dessert. It required impeccable precision, time, and attention to get the cake layers even and toppings just right.

Friendship can be a lot like this. You meet, you connect, you enjoy one another’s company. You know the recipe, or at least you think you do. You give, you take, you listen, you share. You show great attention to this kindred spirit. Layer upon layer of time and emotions and investment.

And then, some gigantic sharp knife cuts through the entire 20 layers of this masterpiece of a cake. Or someone puts too much batter into a layer, and it throws the entire cake off. Or you burn it from the get go. Or a fly gets stuck in the icing. And you have to start the whole darn thing all over again with brand new ingredients.

Ah, friendship.

It’s hard, folks. It can be life-giving. It can be full of “finally someone gets me”. It can be carried along with hallelujahs and belly laughs and sobbing tears and late-night conversations and treats in the middle of the day just because. But finding it and maintaining it and keeping it can be brutally hard.

So I’m not gonna sit here and say, “Here are ten glorious truths about solid, authentic friendships.” Or, “Here are thirty ways to find and be the friend you’ve always wanted.”

Because the beautiful, multi-colored, multifaceted, bottom-line is that we are all so stinkin’ different. And what we are, and what we need, and what we seek in a friend is going to fluctuate as often as our belly fat does. (Especially after having kids. Four kids. Good golly, Miss Molly).

Some are looking for a person who will love and accept them just the way they are. Some are craving an individual who is always there, always dropping by, always checking in. Others just want someone to do things with–exercise, shop, discuss literature or pray. Some are hoping to be sporadically cared for, pursued, and celebrated.

We all have different hopes in friendship.

But, as I speak to each of you, one desire resonates across the line.

You want to be known. You want to be understood.

So, over the next couple of posts, we’re going to pick that all apart. Praying for friends, waiting for friends, looking for friends, being a friend, grieving over friends lost. What in the world does that even look like? We’ll take a look at some friendships in the Bible. What can we learn from their triumphs and mistakes?

I’m taking you in as my virtual friend for the little while. Maybe longer if I can drizzle the glaze juuuuuust right.

 

Vibrant Colors of Affliction

Friends trudging through swamps of depression. Mothers battling unexplained illness. Neighbors fearing deportation. Children losing parents and home. Unexpected expenses piling higher and higher with no hope of relief. Shootings. Hurricanes. Constant strife.

Sometimes the weight of it all seems unbearable. Why, God? Oh, how it hurts. This agonizing, soul-piercing pain.

autumn-1072827_640I’ve been enamored with the colors appearing this year. I have always loved autumn. But I live in a region of Texas that doesn’t get much of a change at all. Just a month ago, we traveled north to areas of New York and Canada where the leaves were already beginning to alter from their usual green. Rich reds, deep purples, vibrant oranges, and golden yellows. I couldn’t help but hold each variety in my hands, feeling the rough edges, smooth surfaces. Gazing intently at each one and standing in awe of the tapestry that blanketed the countryside. A true piece of art.

But as we revel in the fiery landscape this time of year, have you ever considered what is actually happening in the deciduous trees to cause such a sight? Chlorophyll in the leaves is responsible for the greens of the spring and summer. As the amount of daylight decreases in the fall, the production of chlorophyll slows, and the disappearing greens give way to the other colored chemicals that were present all along. The tree begins to preserve its water for the upcoming months of freeze, and must cut off its leaves from the supply so the tree itself can survive (Silver 9-11). The vivid palette of autumn shines through.

Less water. Less sunlight. Less nutrients. The suffering of the leaves.

And yet, with this distressing situation, magnificent color appears. Colors often existing from the first bud, but only brought to sight by the shortage.autumn-2900166_640

Throughout the narrative of Scripture, we see the purpose of difficulty, pain, and hardship for God’s people explained. The sending out of the garden was a means of discipline and protection. The stripping away of all Job owned and loved was to test his loyalty and show forth the faithfulness of Yahweh. The breaking and tearing of God’s people in Hosea was meant to bring them to true repentance and back into fellowship with the Lord. The death of Christ to bring life to the nations. The death of our flesh to bring life through Christ’s death and resurrection. The persecution of the church to result in praise and glory and honor of the one, true God.

Could there be something beautiful in the pressing? Something sacred in the hard? Something glorious in the dying?

“Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her vineyards back to her and make the Valley of Achor (Trouble) into a gateway of hope” (Hosea 2:14-15, parenthesis explanation mine).

“I will depart and return to My place until they recognize their guilt and seek My face; they will search for Me in their distress” (Hosea 5:15).

“You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials that the genuineness of our faith–more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).

Are you weary? Overwhelmed with the affliction of today? Look to the trees. Look to the Maker of the trees. Find hope in the lack. And pray for and rejoice in the vibrant colors that will come forth from the tears, the trials and the pain.

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(Silver, Donald M. One Small Square: Woods. New York: Learning Triangle Press, 1995. Print.)

Preoccupied with Promise–Bible Study Review

“Preoccupied with Promise is a 6-week Bible study, teaching that if your mind has the capacity to be preoccupied with problems, then it can be preoccupied with promise.”

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When I read that tag line, my heart declared, “YES!” Days before I received an email from a dear college and heart friend, Courtney, about launching her new study, I was sitting down with a sister over dark chocolate and hot tea, discussing how important it is to rid our minds of lies and replace them with the truth of God’s word. Such a wonderful and biblical concept and yet so very difficult in practice. An all-out battle. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this study and dive into John 4.

Courtney invites us to sit and gaze upon the story of the woman at the well as she encounters Jesus for the very first time. A story many believers are familiar with but have never deeply examined before. As we listen in on their conversation, hear her questions and witness their interactions, we learn more about what could be possible if we would truly come to know and believe Christ is who He says He is.

Know.

I wanted to really meditate on John 4 as I was walking through PWP. And as I did, I noticed how often the words “know”, “knew”, and “believe” are used. It was evident this encounter was focused on what the woman didn’t know before Christ (yet thought she did) and what she did know after she met her life-giving Savior.

“Yes, we live in the era of unveiled reality. Unlike the Samaritan woman, we know the wonder that was hidden from her for a moment. But do we live like we know? Is there more we could fully know?” (p14)

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We learn from the Samaritan woman’s experience that knowing Christ and being known by Him changes things. Big time. That idea resonated with me. If only I truly believed how perfectly known I am by my El Roi–The God Who Sees. Can you imagine what our lives might look like?

But how do we get there? How can we start seeing and living in the eternal, the supernatural? How can we begin to live in the freedom Christ has offered us?

I love how Courtney has written this study as if she’s chatting with us over coffee, walking us through Scripture, counseling us according to God’s word. She helps us to take the woman at the well as a kind of case study, to track the thoughts that have led to her beliefs. Then we get to do that for ourselves–discover what lies we are feasting on and replace them with promises of God. This aspect was so beneficial for me. I needed to get to the root of my emotions and once again believe God at His word.

This study would be perfect for a mentor and mentee–an older woman in the faith guiding a younger in faith as she seeks to meditate on truth. A small group of ladies would also benefit greatly.

If you find yourself stuck in the muck of discouragement, fear, or loneliness. If you long to truly know this Christ you’ve been hearing about. Get this study. Ask a woman to walk through the weeks with you.

Visit www.randallhouse.com to order your copy today. I’d love to hear how God grows you through this study, and I know Courtney would as well. You can find her at the study’s website: www.preoccupiedwithpromise.com.

Our prayer is that God would shatter the doors of bronze in our hearts and cut in two the bars of iron (Psalm 107:16)! That the patterns of our thoughts would be uprooted and beauty would once again grow wildly! For our joy and His glory.

 

To the Pastor’s Wife

I was asked to write a letter of encouragement to a friend who is just stepping into the role of lead pastor’s wife. I feel as if I could pen an entire book of how I’ve failed, what I’ve learned, scriptures that I’ve clung to. But I haven’t been in this ball game that long. What would I say? As I have been praying over what the Lord would have me include in the letter, I’ve felt the tug to share this here.

I’ve come to believe over the years that our role is just as important as our husband’s. No, we don’t always counsel as much, study as much or attend as many conferences. But we are called to be helpers. And I mean that in the warrior, “khayil”, understanding of the term. We are called to nurture, to fight for our husbands. We’re called to care for the shepherd’s soul that is watching over many souls. What an “in” Satan could have if he could thwart, twist, discourage, embitter that crucial part of our husband’s leadership. It’s an all-out war, sisters.  I have watched his tactics first-hand and seen him tear down a people brick by brick, beginning with the wife of the pastor. But rather than letting that frighten or discourage you, I hope you’ll don your armor, pick up that Sword, and get ready to fight on your knees.

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  1. Pray against resentment. When we first stepped into ministry, Nathan being away helping the church brought me great joy. There was a shine to it all. I enjoyed taking care of things at home so he could serve well, lead well. He has always been cautious to balance home and church to the best of his ability. But then resentment began creeping in. I let thoughts, lies, take over. Believing he didn’t care as much about us. Believing we weren’t his first priority. Believing my role was little and insignificant in comparison. Resentment breeds division, anger, and bitterness. Pray against this. (I Corinthians 13:4-7)
  2. Pray against isolation. Many advised me that I would always be an outsider. I would always feel like I lived in a glass house, never able to confide in a sister in our church family. Never able to be open, honest, vulnerable. That is filth. Find your people. You need them just as much as they need you. Seek out heart friends. Find someone who can pray for you and you for them. Pray for a mentor. If you find yourself trying to avoid all church functions, something is wrong. Talk with your husband. Let the church love on you and care for you. (Hebrews 10:25)
  3. Pray against sexual immorality. This might seem like a shocker, like this is beneath you. But none of us is beyond any sin. Pray for and continually pursue intimacy with your husband. Run, flee, from any hint of sexual immorality: books, television shows, situations that could make you vulnerable. Be on guard and seek to be filled with first the love of your Father and content with the husband He has gifted you. (Ephesians 5:3)
  4. Pray for your marriage. For strength to love sacrificially. For a desire to fight to protect your time together and your unity. Pray for a marriage that reflects the love of the Savior for His Church. For a joyful submission to your husband’s leadership. For a willingness to seek counsel when you find yourself stuck in the same cycle of conflict. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
  5. Pray for joy. Yes, ministry can be hard. There are days when you learn things about people that disappoint you deeply. When you weep for your brothers and sisters as you carry their burdens. However, the joy of the Lord is rich and constant and contagious. There is great joy in His presence. Joy in His word. A joy that doesn’t depend on our circumstances or waiver with time. (Philippians 4:4)
  6. Pray for a mind fixated on truth. I believe our greatest battleground is our mind. We must, MUST, be daily in God’s word and in prayer. Throwing out lies and putting in truth. Meditating on it, chewing on it, believing it. Allowing Scripture to pierce, convict, encourage and train us. (Philippians 4:8, Hebrews 4:12)
  7. Pray for a true love for the Church. These people are your forever family. Pray for a heart that sees past the actions to the heart. Pray for eyes of compassion. Eyes that our Shepherd sees through. Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. Pray for the Spirit to work within you to create that same love and desire for sacrifice. He is able. So able. (Ephesians 5:25)

Sister, you are seen, you are known, you are loved by an Almighty God who has called you to this and will equip you for the task ahead. Most people will never understand all the work you do. And there’s a sweet beauty in that. Only being seen by your God. Cling to your Rock of Ages. He is so good and so faithful and His Church is a gift to you as you are to them.